Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sunday 9th February 1941

Moved about 50 miles today, west and northwards, from Z'Moos to Solluch, which latter place is on the edge of the fertile (“green belt”) region. We came along a decent track, through hills, past ruined forts, an old Arab castle, across an excellent tank-trap (which was being filled in by engineers, assisted, (apparently voluntarily), by Iti prisoners) and through minefields. Weather – high wind, dark clouds, savage rain squalls. During the last ten miles we saw signs, growing more numerous, of an almost forgotten colour – green! A sort of turf – half grass, half clover.

We are bivouacked on a dismal plain of mixed stones and grass, beside a wind pump (I climbed it to have a look around) with some trees and white buildings – Solloch village – nearby. We made a rough lean-to tent in the lee of M1; we're not used to campaigning in this sort of weather yet. When I first crawled into this “tent” I noticed an old, remembered smell – the fused scent of canvas and wet grass. Haven't smelt that since the camping days in England! Still, not being accustomed to rain (it's eleven months since our last dose!) we are at present biassed against the “green belt” and almost long for our dry, dusty desert.

(NB Observe, we ALMOST longed for our desert. 21/2/41)

Peering out – during a fine spell – Grant observed, “It's alright here. Green. You know -” “Yeah, lovely,” I said morosely. Sid chuckled boisterously. “Like a whoring Sunday School treat, “ain't it?” snarled Jackie Hall. Why does Grant say such inane things and swear so stupidly, I wondered irritably, as rain splashed down again.
“... So I told the bah-stud I weren't gonna wear a bah-stud overcoat...” Blast him, he drones on about nothing, when he's not asleep, or eating!

Midnight! Rarely are we up so late! Usually get to bed about 8p.m. As only Pond, Hall and myself are at M1 tonight (les autres having been put on guard) we made a modified tent of local materials – a roomy but fragile affair. We erected it during periods of intermittent peace and storm. On one occasion, just as we'd finished, a sudden gust of wind and rain blew it down ... terrible oaths ... it began to collapse on several occasions ... blasphemy.

Poor old Sid is suffering from boils and rheumatism. “I've never felt so ruddy miserable in all my life,” he said as we sat inside at last, wind shaking the tent hopefully. I was cheerful for once. “This is good fun, isn't it?” I said, appealing to a dissenting audience. “Takes me back 10 years, to the dear old boy scout days!” “Just think!” said Jackie, savagely making his bed. “Think of the weather we've had lately – sandstorms, bloody cold, whoring rain – and then think what auld Lady Astor is sayin' about us!” (“Basking in the sun”).

The others went to sleep after that. I lay awake reading “Spiderweb” and smoked a whole packet of Woodbines. The wind dropped, the rain ceased. Dogs howled and barked, there were occasional rifle shots in the village. Weird surroundings for reading a macabre novel! And it certainly did become gruesome!

By the way, we have a storm lantern in here and are not troubling unduly about the black-out. Eventually the “thriller” became so truly thrilling that I just had to keep reading. Have come to the final chapter (obviously the orthodox happy ending) and shall finish that now, in bed, before going to sleep.

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